President threatens again to cut off South Sudan’s oil pipelines

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Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has threatened again to stop oil flows from South Sudan unless it stops supporting rebel groups operating across their shared border.

Khartoum first said two weeks ago it would close within 60 days two pipelines carrying oil exports from landlocked South Sudan to Port Sudan unless the south cut ties with Sudanese rebels. The south denies doing so, and accuses Sudan in turn of backing insurgents on its soil.

“They [South Sudan] only want to implement the oil deal,” Bashir told his National Congress Party last weekend. “As long as these people do not execute all agreements by 100%, no barrel of oil will be piped to Port Sudan.”

The two neighbours agreed in March to restart oil flows and end the hostilities plaguing them since South Sudan became an independent state in July 2011. Under the deal, both sides were supposed to boost bilateral trade, improve border security and set up a buffer zone along their disputed boundary, having come close to war in 2012.

But, in violation of the deals, both armies are still reported to maintain troops and tanks inside the zone.

Recent satellite images show that South Sudan’s army still have checkpoints or camps in at least nine locations near the southern side of the border. Sudan’s forces have positions in at least five places where tanks or artillery could be seen.

Yet diplomats doubt Sudan will actually close the pipelines, as its economy – once the 17th fastest growing in the world, but tumbling since the oil-rich south’s secession – has been suffering without South Sudan’s pipeline fees.